When you are trying to eat healthier, you probably search for the healthiest foods and ingredients you can incorporate into your diet. That is, while also trying to cut back on the amount of junk food you likely consume in any given day. Every once in awhile, an ingredient you have never heard of comes along. It’s very easy to just skip over those foods and stick with what is familiar. In many cases, this is not the best strategy — especially if you are about to completely disregard spelt. If you’ve never heard of spelt, you’re seriously missing out.
Spelt is one of those foods that phased out of popular cuisine 100 years ago, but is back in focus yet again. Why? Because it’s healthy. Because it seems new and exciting (even though it’s not at all new). People like to jump at the chance to try any new food that promises a long list of benefits to their overall health.
The good news is, spelt is very healthy. Though not eating it won’t hurt you, adding it to your plate can provide some serious benefits. Let’s take a look at what spelt is, what’s in it that makes it so good for you, and how to use it in your kitchen daily.
What is spelt?
Its name might puzzle you if you have never heard it before. No, it’s not the past tense of the word “spell!” In reality, it is really nothing more than a grain — though it’s an ancient one that has been around for centuries. So why are you just hearing about it now? Like many other trends, healthy foods like spelt are making a comeback in modern cuisine. That’s not to say you shouldn’t eat it just because it’s popular. In fact, it happens to be one of those healthy foods that actually is as healthy as they say.
Like many other grains, it’s a healthy source of fiber, protein, vitamins, and minerals. It is relatively low in calories per serving, which means it is packed with large amounts of nutrition for the small amount of energy it provides. This is what makes it such a healthy grain — and one you should definitely consider incorporating into your diet, if you are able.
If you were hoping to add spelt to your gluten-free diet, you might want to consider removing it from your shopping list. Unfortunately, spelt is too closely related to wheat to be considered gluten-free — it still contains the protein that causes an autoimmune response in people with celiac disease. However, there are other gluten-free grains you can enjoy. Quinoa, rice, amaranth, and teff are all grains that are safe to eat for those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity.
Now that you know what spelt is, and you have an idea of how healthy it can be, let’s take a closer look at all the ways it can improve your life. On the surface, it seems like a miracle grain. It’s just as beneficial as many other foods out there — just something different to try if you need to stir up your go-to meals and snacks.
1. Spelt promotes a healthy immune system
Thiamine, also known as vitamin B1, plays many roles throughout your body. Mainly, B vitamins are essential for converting carbohydrates into energy, and keeping certain body systems in check — especially those involves your muscles, nerves, and brain. It also plays a small role in immunity, and can help reduce the stress and anxiety that often weakens your body’s defenses against disease.
Spelt, which contains this and other B vitamins, can therefore help protect you from disease. Spelt alone won’t shield you from the various bacteria and viruses that attempt to sicken you on a daily basis. However, it can help contribute to a much healthier you in the long-term.
2. It’s good for blood circulation
Spelt is a good source of iron. Iron is a component of a substance called hemoglobin. Hemoglobin, which exists in your red blood cells, is responsible for carrying oxygen-rich blood from your lungs to various parts of your body. Iron deficiency is all too common, and it makes it more difficult for your red blood cells to get oxygen to the places it’s needed inside you. This is why it is so important to eat foods with plenty of iron — like spelt — in addition to taking a multivitamin that contains iron, to cover any gaps in your diet.
Other foods rich in iron include beans, red meat, seafood, spinach, and raisins. Some foods are fortified with iron, but spelt contains it naturally.
3. It’s good for your bone health
Spelt is rich in a variety of minerals that are actually essential for bone health — even more so than just calcium alone. It contains selenium, zinc, magnesium, phosphorus, and copper. All these minerals are responsible for creating and also strengthening bone tissue. If you increase the amount of these minerals in your diet — if you eat more spelt — you can set yourself up for a long life with healthy bones. Healthy bones can help to prevent osteoporosis, as well as other age-related conditions that could negatively impact your bone health.
Other foods that are good for your bone health include cabbage, sardines, nuts, tofu, milk and cheese, eggs, tahini, salmon, and even onions. If you can find a way to incorporate one or several of these foods into a recipe involving spelt, your bones are going to be stronger than ever.
4. Spelt keeps your hormones in balance
Niacin, also known as vitamin B3, is part of the essential B vitamin family that helps keep your body’s systems running at full capacity. It also plays a small role in hormone regulation. In particular, niacin interacts with your adrenal glands — the glands that produce sex hormones. If your hormones are out of sorts, life becomes extremely difficult. This is why eating foods containing vitamins like B3 — like spelt — is extremely important.
Spelt is an excellent source of niacin. Eating it on a regular basis could help keep your hormones in check, and the rest of you healthy — both physically and psychologically. Other foods that contain niacin include turkey, peanuts, mushrooms, green peas, and grass-fed beef.
5. It’s good for digestion
Whether they know it or not, many people experience digestive problems simply because they do not get enough fiber in their diet. Eating high-fiber foods like spelt can help improve or prevent constipation, bloating, gas, cramping, and even diarrhea. It bulks up your stool as it moves through your digestive tract. Not only does this speed up the rate at which your body absorbs nutrients, but it can seriously improve your quality of life. No more upset stomach for no apparent reason!
Besides spelt, healthy foods high in fiber include broccoli, beans, avocados, berries, chickpeas, nuts, chia seeds, and quinoa.
6. It can lower your cholesterol
There are two types of cholesterol in your body: HDL (“good”) cholesterol, and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. It’s HDL cholesterol’s job to pick up excess LDL cholesterol in your blood and take it to your liver for proper disposal. Eating a lot of fatty and sugary foods can cause excess LDL cholesterol to accumulate in your blood. Too much LDL could end up in your arteries as plaque, which could cause a stroke or heart attack. Dietary fiber is a great way to prevent this from happening.
The soluble fiber in spelt works to keep your HDL and LDL cholesterol levels in balance. It prevents your blood from absorbing LDL cholesterol, which helps keep your heart’s arteries clear of heart attack- and stroke-causing plaque.
7. Spelt may help prevent or control type 2 diabetes
Type 2 diabetes develops as a result of prolonged insulin resistance. The more out of control your blood sugar is, the more resistant your cells will become to the insulin trying to control it. The reason diabetes is such a problem for so many people really comes down to diet. Let’s face it — most of us eat way more junk food than we should. Junk food is mostly made up of simple sugars, which the bloodstream absorbs quickly. This causes a spike in blood sugar, which sends insulin production into overdrive. Over time, this can lead to diabetes.
However, spelt is high in fiber. Unlike the simple sugars found in junk food, fiber is a slow-digesting complex carbohydrate. This means the bloodstream absorbs it slowly. Absorbing sugar slowly means there are no sudden blood sugar spikes. Insulin production continues on as normal, and your pancreas isn’t in any danger of all but quitting on you.
8. It could help you lose weight
You already know that foods high and fiber can improve your digestion and regulate your blood sugar. It turns out that eating foods like spelt can also help you shed that extra 15 pounds.
According to Harvard Health Publications, maintaining a diet high in fiber could promote weight loss. As mentioned above, fiber is a slow-digesting carbohydrate. This means it takes longer to break down as your body digests it — keeping you fuller, longer. If you eat a high fiber breakfast — such as a hot cereal made with spelt, with fruit on top — you’re not going to be hungry again until lunch. It just reduces the likelihood that you will overeat foods that provide little to no benefit to your body.
Fiber alone won’t grant you the weight loss miracle you have been waiting for, of course. It takes months of healthy eating, consistent exercise, and the right attitude to make the best and healthiest changes in your life. But adding even just one high-fiber food to your regimen today can make a huge difference in the weeks to come.
If you’re intrigued by spelt’s many health benefits, you can start incorporating it into your diet immediately. Well, after you buy yourself some spelt, that is.
What do you do with a bunch of spelt?
One of the biggest problems people face when they learn about and purchase a new health food or ingredient is that they don’t know how to use it. They arrive back in their kitchens, stare at this foreign-to-them food, and realize they have no idea whether they’re supposed to dump it into a bowl and eat it, boil it in a soup, or sprinkle it onto a side salad. Despite all the recipes out there, not knowing how to use spelt could cause you to miss out on so many of its health benefits.
Spelt is a grain — you aren’t just going to eat it raw, the same way you wouldn’t eat raw oats or raw quinoa. However, you can use spelt and spelt flour in ways very similar to how you’d use other grains. Basically, anything you can make with wheat flour, you can make with spelt. But that’s not all. Here is a short list of foods that, with the right recipe, you can make with a different type of grain.
Foods you can make with spelt
- Hot cereal
- A spelt-based salad
- Pizza crust
The list goes on. Even within the list above, there are dozens of different recipes that could allow you to create many different types of food — each tasting a little different. The key here is to start with a recipe you are already familiar with and figure out how to incorporate a new ingredient. It might take some practice, but when it comes to food, experimenting is never a waste. Often times, you end up creating something you will want to prepare again and again for many years to come.
Sometimes, the motivation to eat healthy food doesn’t come easily. However, something as simple as adding a new type of grain into your diet to “mix things up” could be enough to get you on the right track. While this grain isn’t the only healthy food with a long list of benefits, it is an extremely versatile ingredient. Once you start searching, you may never run out of new recipes to try. New food isn’t as overwhelming as you might think. You might even learn to love it.